People who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in the U.S. can skip quarantining if they are exposed to someone infected with the virus and don’t show symptoms after, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday — though the good news comes with some caveats.
“Fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19,” the CDC said in updated guidance posted to its website. Those exposed should still wear a mask and practice social distancing when in public, the CDC added.
To skip quarantining, the vaccinated person must have received all required vaccine doses, with the last dose taking place at least two weeks before the exposure. And people should still quarantine if they had their last shot more than three months ago, according to the CDC — so the window for someone to skip quarantining is fairly short.
The individual exposed also needs to remain asymptomatic after the exposure.
The CDC’s guidance includes admitted uncertainty about how much vaccines might reduce transmission of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, and how long the protection lasts. However, the CDC said evidence suggests those vaccinated have a lower risk of transmitting the virus.
“Although the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from vaccinated persons to others is still uncertain, vaccination has been demonstrated to prevent symptomatic COVID-19; symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission is thought to have a greater role in transmission than purely asymptomatic transmission,” the CDC said.
The CDC said the guidance will be updated when additional information about the vaccines becomes available.
Those exposed after being vaccinated should still watch for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days following their exposure. They should contact their health care provider if they show symptoms.
The CDC’s update came as Dr. Anthony Fauci, who serves as chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said that he expects the vaccine to become available to everyone in the U.S. by April. Since the vaccine’s first rollout in January, only limited groups of people have been able to receive doses.
“If you look at the projection, I would imagine by the time we get to April, that will be what I would call, for (lack of) better wording, ‘open season,’ namely that virtually everybody and anybody, in any category, could start to get vaccinated,” Fauci said said in an interview with NBC’s “Today Show” Thursday.
By the middle or end of the summer, after giving people a few months’ time to receive the vaccine, Fauci said he hopes that the overwhelming majority of people will have been vaccinated.
The more people vaccinated, the more likely the country is able to reach herd immunity, which makes it hard for the disease to spread from person to person. Herd immunity also protects those who cannot be vaccinated, the CDC has said.
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